Visit the Archives to explore some of the actual archival documents used by Ondaatje in ‘In the Skin of a Lion,’ a novel which examines aspects of the working-class immigrant experience in early 20th century Toronto.

Booking information

  • Advance booking is required. Please contact the Archives at 416-392-5561 or at archives@toronto.ca to book a program.
  • The program is free and lasts one-and-a-half hours.
  • Minimum group size is 10, maximum is 30.
  • This program can be adapted for university students or other groups interested in the background of this award-winning novel.

The student experience

During their visit, students will look at archival documents used by Ondaatje for his book. They will:

  • see archival photographs recording the construction of the Bloor Street Viaduct and the R.C. Harris Filtration Plant, the two major settings of ‘In the Skin of a Lion’
  • see images of real immigrant workers and their homes from early 20th century Toronto
  • view maps and examine tax records and city directories from the early 20th century. These documents allowed the author  to develop the realistic and accurate locations and settings used in the novel
  • experience how the program will bring life to the characters and locations in the novel, and give a new sense of realism to the events. It will allow those reading and studying the novel to understand how and why an author uses archival resources, and will give students the necessary skills to conduct their own research

Examine maps, photographs, and other archival records used by Redhill in the development of his intriguing tale of Toronto, told through two parallel narratives separated by 150 years.

Booking information

  • Advance booking is required. Please contact the Archives at 416-392-5561 or at archives@toronto.ca to book a program.
  • The program is free and lasts one-and-a-half hours.
  • Minimum group size is 10, maximum is 30.
  • This program is designed for high school classes reading ‘Consolation,’ but can be adapted for university students or other groups interested in the background of this award-winning novel.

The student experience

During their visit, students will look at archival documents used by Redhill for his book. They will:

  • examine maps, photographs, and other archival records that shed light on the lives of Toronto’s citizens in the mid-19th century, and see how they lived, worked, and how the city they called home has changed
  • view materials that illustrate how Toronto’s lakeshore has altered over the last 150 years, and discover the truth behind Redhill’s premise of hidden treasure buried under landfill
  • understand how and why an author uses archival resources in the development of a story, and the techniques required in building up a convincing picture of the past
  • see the Armstrong, Beere and Hime photographs taken in 1856-57, which inspired and influenced Redhill in the creation of ‘Consolation’